On Being Ugly: why all women are beautiful

Photo Illustration by Lydia Schweickart

Julie Sisler

Editor’s Note: This is a personal essay by Julie Sisler.  

The first time I called myself ugly, I was seven years old. As I looked at the picture of my friends and me at my birthday party, I realized that I looked different from them. They were tiny, blonde and tan. I was a pudgy, glasses-wearing, pale girl with an extremely unfortunate bowl cut.

As I examined these differences, my innocent brain searched for a word to describe the difference between my friends and me. Finally, my mouth formed the word: ugly.

As I grew into my awkward phase, the realization I came to at the age of seven kept recurring. My best friend grew into a tall, slim, tanned, blonde babe. I, on the other hand, grew both vertically and horizontally. Though I (thankfully) was able to ditch the bowl cut, my hair did not magically turn blonde, and my skin remained pale and freckled.

I couldn’t help but notice that people who looked like my best friend were the ones in movies and magazines, the ones who got the guy and were shown living exciting, happy lives. People like me, however, were the source of comedic relief and shows like “Ugly Betty.”

These observations only became more noticeable as I entered middle school, high school and eventually college. The more women I talked to, the more I realized my insecurities were not unfounded, nor were they something only I suffered from. Even my beautiful best friend, who has a body and face that many would love to have, found herself not measuring up to the expectations placed on women.

The “ideal” body image for women in the media includes perfect skin, tiny waists and ample breasts and butts.

Though some movies and TV shows explore positive body image, it’s hard to deliver the message when women who have “ideal” body types are ones acting out the scenes.

So we as women are being told that we need to meet these near impossible standards, but we are also harped about being full of genuine self-love and confidence. The media wants us to love ourselves … but only if we fit their mold. My curvy frame, pale skin and unruly brown hair are seldom shown in the media. Does that mean I’m not supposed to love those parts of myself?

Women in particular are pressured with these reinforced ideals that beauty is of the utmost importance and should be regarded as one of the most important assets a woman can (and should) have.

Girls are taught at a young age to look at themselves critically, and the sad truth that women in society face is that we don’t feel beautiful.

I can’t even remember the first time I called myself beautiful. At the time, I’m sure it felt insignificant. However, every time that a woman realizes how beautiful she is, she is making an important step towards true self-love, the kind that not even Hollywood can get right.

Women are beautiful. They are beautiful when they smile and laugh, when they use their beautiful minds to create new ideas, when they use their beautiful hearts to make the world a better place and when they use their beautiful personalities to decorate our world.

The size of your clothing, the number of blemishes on your face, the color of your skin and any other aspect of your body that society tells you isn’t “ideal” does not diminish your beauty.

You become beautiful the moment you decide that you are.

As for my 19-year-old self looking back on my seven-year-old self: I was not ugly, but different. And isn’t that sort of beautiful?

Features reporter Julie Sisler can be reached at 270-745-6291 and [email protected] Follow Julie on Twitter at @julie_sisler.